Essay on criticism horace

In contrast to Aristotle or Plato, who spoke of imitation of nature or ideals, Horace means imitation of other authors. Of course, he says, you may imitate from nature and may wish to invent your own themes, but it is safer to learn from others. He warns against choosing bad models, and he praises Homer because he knows how to give unity to his work mingling fact and fiction, and because he knows how to be lively by virtue of restraining himself:.

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He does not begin He ever hastens to the issue, and hurries his hearers into the midst of the story [ in medias res ], just as if they knew it before; and what he thinks his touch will never turn to gold, that he lets alone. It must be kept in mind that Horace is not advocating a frozen kind of beauty: he thinks that only the poems which follow the rules of art will be able to draw the hearer's feelings; charming a cultivated audience is the true test of beauty.

It is surprising that Horace being a "lyrical" poet he skips lyrical forms in his account of poetry and devotes instead most of his treatise to drama, a genre which was neither dominant in Rome nor practised by Horace himself. This may be one sign of the conventional nature of the Ars poetica.


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Horace's discussion of drama is also based on decorum. He complains of silly plays with complicated scenery, multitudinary casts and disjointed plots, and he gives some clear-cut laws which will become the credo of neoclassical writers:. Horace writes a thumbnail history of Greek and Roman theatre see also the epistle to Augustus , and recognizes the superiority of Greek models; Roman poets and playwrights he sees in general as rude and careless as far as technique is concerned.

How Alexander Pope Unanxiously Imitates Horace

Being a Roman and a mediator between his age and the superior Greek culture of the past, Horace is already to some extent a neoclassical writer: he has a classical tradition behind him, models to follow and to adapt, which is the basic defining trait of neoclassicism. However, Horace is not in favour of an unreasonable admiration to past writers. He says that they often have important defects, which must be criticised and not foolishly justified.

He defends novelty and change; we have here a classical forerunner of the defence of the moderns against the ancients. This will be remembered in the long debate between the classicists and the moderns during the late seventeenth century. What is more, Horace says that in favouring change he is following the example of the Greeks, the classics themselves: "If novelty had been as despised by the Greeks as it is by us, would we have anything old?

Horace presents us an ideal of the poet as a man of society, who faces a public of learned and cultivated aristocrats.


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  • He laughs at extravagant "bohemian" poets who claim to be inspired by the Muses; he advises them to cut their hair and their nails, and to wash without any fear of washing their inspiration away. We may notice that now the theories of inspiration linger on as myths, but that they are already an object of ridicule.

    1. Introduction

    Now it is the natural gift of the poet, and not an external inspiration, which is opposed to technical knowledge. Neoptolemus, one of Horace's influences, distinguished the technically skilful from the born poet.

    An Essay on Criticism by Alexander Pope [Full Audiobook]

    Horace is insisting on the necessity of rules, but it is not that he does not believe in the necessity of a natural gift: "the source and fountainhead of writing well is wise thinking. One must not trust one's own judgement, but rather ask friends for their sincere opinion before one ventures to publication, and , in any case, let the poems lay for a long time before you decide anything. The bad poet falls to the depths of ridicule. Horace claims that there is no use for bad or middling poets : "to be second-rate is a privilege which neither men nor gods nor bookstalls ever allowed.

    This is the kind of advice we would not find in Aristotle; Horace is writing an entirely different type of criticism. Lines 1 — On unity and harmony.

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    English Literature: The Ars Poetica: Horace

    Lines 73 — What the tradition dictates decorum. Lines — Invention vs. Lines — On characterization the four ages of man. Lines — On the gods, chorus and music in tragic drama. Lines — On style especially in satyr plays. Lines — On metre and versification. Lines — Tragedy and comedy, Greek and Roman poets. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.

    Hardison Jr. No cover image. Read preview. Synopsis "Original insights into Horace's influential poem. Kennedy, Paddison professor of classics and professor of comparative literature, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill The influence of Horace's Ars Poetica on literary criticism across the ages has sometimes manifested itself in straightforward and direct ways and sometimes in a subtler, more oblique fashion.

    This volume offers, for the first time, an anthology of important texts, with accompanying commentary, that illustrate this diverse and significant Horatian influence. The authors demonstrate that what has endured since the first century B.